About Lindsay Smith: Lindsay Smith is the Senior Content Strategist and Copywriter for Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. In this role, she is responsible for planning, writing, and managing all marketing copy for the School, as well as overseeing website content, communication guidelines, and advertising efforts. Her extensive background in marketing communications, content strategy, copywriting, branding, and graphic design includes positions as Manager of Client Strategy at Grafik and Product Strategy Consultant at CGI Group.
Ms. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing Management from Virginia Tech. She completed her master’s in 2017, graduating from Georgetown’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Lindsay Smith] I’m a content strategist and copywriter with experience leading marketing communications efforts for the public sector, private sector, nonprofits, and everything in between. Since starting out my career as a graphic designer, I’ve worked across various facets of marketing, including branding, product strategy, client services, and business development. I am currently the senior content strategist and copywriter at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, where I oversee the School’s overarching content strategy and lead the planning and development of marketing communications efforts across more than 50 degree and certificate programs.
On the side, I’m a freelance writer and consultant, working with brands on efforts ranging from positioning statements and brand guidelines to messaging strategies and integrated marketing campaigns. Prior to Georgetown, I worked at a brand strategy agency, where I was responsible for both internal and external branding initiatives, as well as managing client strategy. In addition to a master’s in integrated marketing communications from Georgetown University, I have a bachelor’s in marketing management from Virginia Tech.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at Georgetown University?
[Lindsay Smith] I think it’s safe to say that I fall into the “lifelong learner” category—going to grad school was always a path I wanted to pursue, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. Given my background of working across so many different areas of marketing, it was difficult for me to narrow my interests down to a singular focus. That’s when I heard about Georgetown’s IMC program.
I was actually already working for Georgetown at the time, and the degree was still in development and hadn’t yet been launched. The more I learned about it, the more I was convinced it was a perfect fit. It not only covered a wide breadth of marketing disciplines and channels but also emphasized a hands-on approach, so it was exactly what I was looking for in a program. Based on the reputation of Georgetown’s other professional grad degrees, I knew I’d have the opportunity to practice what I was learning both inside and outside the classroom and apply those skills to help me advance in my career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Georgetown’s IMC program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Lindsay Smith] Georgetown’s program emphasizes practical, applied learning. Throughout the program, there are opportunities to build your experience and portfolio through hands-on practice. This includes group projects, case studies, client engagements, and independent assignments. You definitely learn to get comfortable working in both group settings and on your own pretty early on in the program.
In addition to helping me improve my time management and communication skills, the program strengthened my leadership, collaboration, and creative problem-solving abilities. I developed a greater sense of confidence and was able to build upon and put to use the knowledge I gained in every class.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Lindsay Smith] For my capstone project, I worked with a local business that was part record store and café, part bar and restaurant, and part live music venue (so it had a lot going on, to say the least). It was a relatively new establishment that was trying to carve out a niche for itself in the crowded D.C. nightlife scene while also struggling to strike a balance between the various elements of its identity. There were three main challenges I addressed as part of my project: the lack of clear positioning, lack of awareness, and lack of core patronage.
To address these challenges, I developed an IMC campaign to help the establishment solidify its positioning and drive awareness among a target demographic that it could ultimately convert into loyal customers. This included substantial audience research (including a customer survey); a comprehensive competitor analysis; strategy and tactic recommendations across channels and platforms; a detailed campaign plan, budget, and timeline; a brand positioning statement, brand promise, and brand pillars; spec work of creative executions; and a brand messaging and style guide for the establishment to use as a reference for all future communications.
I think the best piece of advice I can offer to students embarking on their capstone is to make it a point to properly manage your expectations before going into the project and remember that it’s not just about you—it’s also about the client. It’s really easy to get caught up in the work and become emotionally attached to certain ideas you have when, in reality, the client may not need (or want) those things. And even though it’s the “best idea” or “the cleverest tagline” or “the right strategy” in your head, the client may not be in a position to pay for it or have the proper resources to implement it—or they may just not understand where you’re coming from, especially if they don’t have a marketing background. (And that’s not to say that they’re wrong or you’re right, sometimes it’s just a difference of opinions and realities.)
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Georgetown’s MPS in Integrated Marketing Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Lindsay Smith] One of the most useful things I took away from the Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications program was a more holistic way of thinking about marketing challenges. Rather than addressing situations with a one-size-fits-all solution, I learned to really dig deep and assess a problem from multiple angles. This means not only looking at what’s going on within the organization but also delving into outside factors such as the competitive landscape, the industry, the target audience, and any trends or changes affecting such factors that could be contributing to the situation.
Consumer Research and Insights was one of the best classes I took during my time in the program and I gained a newfound appreciation for research, as well as a deeper understanding of the various tactics you can use to uncover the psychology behind consumer behavior and glean insights. The Creative Brief was another incredibly valuable course that I took. I hadn’t had much experience in this area prior to entering the program and I learned so many useful tips for developing effective creative briefs, which is something I’ve been able to apply in my current job, and a skill I’ll be able to transfer to any future jobs I hold.
Finally, Building Your Creative Muscle was hands-down my favorite course. This was a course that really challenged me to use different types of creative problem-solving (like lateral and divergent techniques) to tackle marketing challenges. It also taught me about “open” and “closed” thinking and changed the way I approach brainstorming. I now have a deeper appreciation for the concept of “yes, and” and the value that can come from having a large volume of ideas as opposed to just a few. Perhaps even more valuable still was learning some of the different strategies for creativity—which is something that I have been able to apply in both my personal and professional life.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Georgetown or another university?
[Lindsay Smith] First and foremost, go easy on yourself. Grad school is a lot of work—especially if you’re working and going to school at the same time—so it’s important to cut yourself some slack and go into it knowing that it’s a balancing act and that sometimes you can’t do it all. And that’s okay. It’s easy to fall into a trap of putting too much pressure on yourself, building up stress, and getting overwhelmed, which can be a vicious cycle. Try to manage expectations before starting the program to foster a more forgiving—and healthier—mindset for yourself.
Additionally, while you’re in the program, try to get everything you can from it. You’re spending your time, money, and energy to be there, so you may as well make it worthwhile by actually doing the readings, putting your all into assignments, and paying attention in class. Finally, try to enjoy your time in the program. It goes by so fast, and when you actually stop to think about it, you should feel pretty good about yourself that you were accepted into the program and that you’re furthering your education by studying a topic that interests you.
Thank you, Ms. Smith, for your excellent insights on Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marking Communications program!